More companies tapping govt grants

As the business environment becomes more challenging, more companies have taken advantage of government schemes.

Since the start of the year, more than 23,000 grants have been given to companies, with more than half of the grants going to small and medium-sized enterprises, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The grants were disbursed through various schemes, such as Spring's Capability Development Grant, which defrays costs such as consultancy, certification and equipment costs, and International Enterprise Singapore's Global Company Partnership, which helps companies to internationalise.

Mr Tharman was speaking at the 30th anniversary dinner of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies said that he was glad that the take-up of government schemes had increased.

"We must keep up the pace and aim for another 200,000 grants over the next five years so that more firms can benefit," he said.

Other than grants, the Government has stepped in to help with financing.

Financing for businesses is tough in a down cycle, noted Mr Tharman. This prompted the Government to share risk with banks, which are more cautious in uncertain times, he said.

To help companies meet the key challenge of financing, the SME Working Capital Loan was announced by the Government during the Budget this year. Since then, more than $500 million in loans have been disbursed to more than 3,000 SMEs under the scheme, he said.

He said while there are "some sectors which are in recession", the economy as a whole is not in recession.

He emphasised that the most important aim of the government schemes was to help companies "emerge from this weak period even stronger than before."

He urged companies to develop deep skills, innovate and internationalise, even if they are young companies.

The event marked the first time Asme had celebrated its history, paying tribute to former association presidents who have contributed to the SME ecosystem.

The not-for-profit association was established in 1986 by a group of businessmen to champion the causes of SMEs.

It has a wide array of services to help develop homegrown enterprises, such as the SME Centre @ ASME, where individuals and companies can access business advisory services for free.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'More companies tapping govt grants'. Print Edition | Subscribe